Around the world, particularly in developing countries, bar soap is still the predominant body wash substance of choice. And up until the post world war 2 era the same was true in America. People began using shower gels more than soaps as they earned more disposable income and opted for the more extravagant choices of scent.
Marketing genius over the years has also managed to convince us that shower gel is somehow cleaner than bar soap. And even to the more skeptical of us of this, it has weaved its way into our minds and there really is something strange feeling about touching a bar of soap at someone else’s house or at a restaurant, and this need not be the case.
Many of those antibacterial soaps many of us have sworn by at some point or another have recently come under a lot of scrutiny and some have been banned by the FDA due to the extremely harmful side effects they have on the body.
Trisoclan which is the main antibacterial ingredient in about three quarters of antibacterial soaps has been linked to obesity, cancer, prolonged puberty and even infertility. There is then also the concern that this increased use of antibacterial soaps can lead to the development of anti bacterial resistant strains of bacteria.
And finally, it should be noted that in years and years of research, antibacterial soaps have not been shown to be any more effective than normal soaps. They don’t target viruses so things like the flu and other illnesses are not killed by even the antibacterial soaps.
So why are we using liquid soaps and shower gels more than in times past? Well first of all, most people these days shower instead of bathing and as such shower gels are often an easier option. They lather up quickly and many have hooks or other features making them easily at reach in showers, particularly if space is an issue.
Secondly, and possibly most importantly, companies realized the potential of scented shower gels which packed more of a punch in the smells departments. With companies like Axe, Dove, Nivea and old spice releasing fragranced shower gels at low prices and which were easy to use.
And with this increased demand for shower gels, comes less demand for bar soaps, which in turn means less is produced and they are harder to come by.
Go into any grocery store and you will almost certainly have a much easier time finding the shiny shower gels packing shelves than the humble soap bars hidden at the bottom. In this article we are going to discuss some of the many reasons you should switch to bar soap.
In the current climate of the world both figuratively and literally speaking, people are starting to wake up to the warning signs that we should probably be looking at making the things we do in our lives a lot more sustainable.
Island size masses of plastic are being found in parts of the ocean severely impacting ocean life. This plastic then makes it’s way back to us through the food chain since we eat the fish which eat the plastic. And as you can imagine, this is not good for us or the fish, neither have evolved to be able to eat plastic and so ill effects ensue.
One place we can start reducing our plastic use is in the bathroom. Most of us will have five to ten bottles of something or other on the go at any one time in the bathroom, some we only use once or twice, others like shower gel we buy more of every week.
This is all single use plastic and is terrible for the environment. And you might rightfully be thinking that very little of what you do will match up in any way to the obscene amounts of plastic waste produced on industrial levels, but the more you as a consumer demand more eco friendly goods, the more the industry will supply them, if not only to retain customers and profits.
The big companies are starting to introduce larger ranges of bar soaps with far less plastic packaging: Dove, Native, Dr. Bronner’s, dial and Harry’s all now offer bar soap which just comes in one small box made of card.
There are of course countless more large companies doing this as well as a wide range of newer and smaller brands offering luxurious yet affordable bar soaps are pride themselves on their eco friendly stance.
This is done particularly well by companies like Marlowe. They also ensure that no animals are harmed in the production of the soaps, which to be fair most companies do nowadays.
Looking on the back of a bottle of liquid soap or shower gel you seem to find that there are usually 20+ ingredients, all of which have scary names which seem like they belong much better in a high school chemistry test than they do on your lovely soft and sensitive skin.
And yet we lather away, indulge in the wonderful scents and forget all about it, without really ever looking into what some of those chemicals do to the body.
Alternatively, if you’ve ever bought bar soap, especially from a specialist such as Lush, you’ll know that bar soaps contain far fewer ingredients. And even some of the bigger brands have far fewer ingredients in their bar soaps than their shower gels.
The first two ingredients of bar soaps are usually water and glycerine. These are essentially the carriers for all of the scents and oils, glycerine acts as a natural preservative and humectant (draws moisture from the air into your skin) too.
They have been used in natural cosmetics for centuries and are very safe. The next ingredients are the natural oils which give soaps their conditioning and softening properties.
For sustainability reasons many soap makers will no longer use palm oil in their products. There is then usually some kind of emulsifier to stop the oil and water components of the products from separating. And finally some lathering bar soaps will contain sodium hydroxide, which allows them to lather, this is a synthetic ingredient but is considered safe, and some soaps do not even use it.
Now that we’ve mentioned the benefits of the natural ingredients used in bar soaps, let’s take a look at some of the worrying health impacts of excessive and extended use of liquid soaps and shower gels.
Trisoclan has been banned since 2016 for use in soaps but unfortunately it is still contained in many other cosmetic products so it deserves a mention here. It reacts with chlorine which, although only in small amounts, is almost certainly in your tap water at home. This reaction produces chloroform which is a dangerous carcinogen.
Perfumes, which are the reason many of us choose shower gels over soap, are usually derived from petroleum and can lead to dried out skin, anemia, damage to the liver and kidneys, and can even impact the development of a fetus.
Diethanolamide reacts to preservatives to create a substance called nitrosodiethanolamide which is absorbed into skin. It is linked to various cancers and also interferes with the uptake of vitamin B which is essential for the brain.
Propylene glycol is associated with eczema and dermatitis. It can also increase the sensitivity of your skin.
Dioxane, which is used as a solvent in shower gels, is a carcinogen which is toxic to the brain, kidneys, liver and central nervous system.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is used as an emulsifier which can cause imbalances in the natural moisture of the skin and when it reacts with certain other chemicals can become carcinogenic.
And finally, parabens. Parabens are used as a preservative and are very bad for our hormonal system. They can cause severe imbalances which can potentially lead to various types of cancer.
Healthier for Your Skin
With this is mind it is clear that the natural moisturizing oils in bar soaps are far better for our skin as well as general health than liquid soaps or shower gels. They maintain a better balance of your natural oils and clean you just as well as body washes in terms of removing dirt and bacteria.
Many bar soaps, particularly artisanal ones, even have exfoliating ingredients such as sand, citrus peels and plant matter. And unlike the plastic micro beads that so many exfoliating shower gels contain, these natural ingredients do not get confused as food by fish and as such is much better for the environment too!
In conclusion, there is overwhelming evidence as to why for the sake of your health and for the environment you should switch to bar soap. But be sure to check the ingredients and packaging of the bar soap you buy.
If the packaging is excessive and/or made of plastic then it probably isn’t having much of an impact on the environmental side of things. Similarly if you buy a bar soap product but it contains any or all of the dangerous ingredients we’ve mentioned above then it will not likely be doing anything positive for your health over shower gels.
The take away from this is that in our shopping habits we should aim to make the choices which benefit our health and our planet, and bathroom shopping is included in this. Find a soap that’s right for you and your skin and you will be glad you made the switch to bar soap!